The Kickoff college football newsletter is putting the final touches on our first issue of the 2018 season. We’ll be emailing Issue 1 to PDF subscribers this coming Monday, August 27th ahead of the Week One games.

The issue includes our Preseason Top 50, which differs from the first AP Top 25 Poll released on August 20th. We agree that Alabama, Clemson and Georgia appear well positioned for continued success this season.

Ohio State’s position on the Kickoff Preseason Poll was unsettled amidst the controversy over Coach Urban Meyer’s future with the Buckeyes following a domestic abuse scandal with one of his staff coaches. The school suspended Meyer for the first three games of the season about to begin. AP’s initial poll had them ranked #5. Kickoff Editor Tommy Duff said the rankings beyond the top 3 could still change beyond the initial picks before Issue 1 goes out to readers on August 27th if the situation develops further.

“Ohio State may be the biggest fail of the season if Urban Meyer ends up fired. I don’t think the story or clouds are over quite yet. The (scandal) is an embarrassment to the university and as long as he is there, it will hang over them. I would be surprised, but not shocked, if more comes out. The media is torching Meyer. Another potential letdown is Florida State in Willie Taggart’s first season and with a brand new athletic director,” Duff speculated. “Other possible surprises? I think Boise State might go undefeated. Auburn could be undefeated heading into November.”

Whereas AP has Wisconsin ranked as the #4 team in the country, Duff considered putting Miami and Washington ahead of the Badgers, who went 13-1 last season.

The reason? “Schedules and returns. Washington returns 7 on offense and 9 on defense, including all-conference quarterback and running back. Miami doesn’t play Clemson and has a clear path to the conference championship. The Hurricanes’ toughest game is the opener versus LSU, and they are favored. We like their chances. Washington has a clear path to the playoffs, provided they beat Auburn in the Kickoff Classic. A loss to Auburn won’t be as harmful to their chances because AU plays in SEC West. I could see Auburn beat Washington and still have two or three possible losses and no conference championship game. Washington has an easier path and would be favored in PAC 12 championship. Wisconsin will have to play either Penn State or Ohio State in the Big 10 championship. A lot tougher matchup.”

Wisconsin is #7 in the Coaches Poll and has four first-team All-America team players, compared to two each for Alabama, Clemson, and West Virginia.

First-year Vols Coach Jeremy Pruitt is hoping to achieve success at Tennessee, rather than being just another coach on the seemingly endless path back to prominence. He’ll face an uphill battle trying to beat his old boss, Nick Saban, at Alabama. The same might be said for another Saban protégé, Kirby Smart at Georgia, although last year showed that he’s the real deal.

“Is Georgia as good as they were last year? We’ll see, but they likely will win the SEC East. It will be difficult, but not impossible, to reach the national title game again.”

With Jimbo Fisher making the move from Florida State to Texas A&M (where he’ll earn Saban-esque paychecks), there’s a chance of even more competitiveness in the SEC West… Maybe. “I’m on the fence about that one,” Duff said. “Jimbo can win in Texas if he controls his players.”

Winning is the name of the game. Without it, coaches don’t last long in this biz.

“As for other possible coaching changes on the horizon,” Duff added, “Urban Meyer, depending on the outcome of the Ohio State investigation… Ed Orgeron at LSU, Larry Fedora at UNC, Kalani Sitake at BYU, Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech, and Lovie Smith at Illinois are all on the hot seat this season.”

The Kickoff expects another great effort from Miami in Mark Richt’s third season. “Fans want a national title, but I don’t think the pressure to deliver is there quite yet. The fan base is behind him as a former Miami QB. His future as the head coach is all about attendance. As long as people fill the stadium, he’s safe.”

New seasons offer great potential for teams to start fresh, but replacing lost talent can be a bigger challenge for some than others.

“Baker Mayfield is irreplaceable as Oklahoma’s quarterback,” Duff said. “Kyler Murray is going to be good, but nobody is THAT good. Murray could be the best in the Big 12 but still not as good as Mayfield.”

Duff offers more extensive preseason ranking analysis in Issue #1, to be emailed this coming Monday, August 27, 2018 and print copies sent First Class Mail will arrive later in the week. The first issue also provides our initial Power Ratings for teams, the expanded standings from 2017, and more, plus a listing of teams’ 2018 football schedules, divided by conference:

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College football begins this weekend on Saturday, August 25th, with four games scheduled: Duquesne at UMass, Prairie View A&M at Rice, Wyoming at New Mexico State, and Hawaii at Colorado State. Our Week One Games of the Week, barring any editorial change, will be Auburn vs Washington, LSU vs Miami (FL), and Michigan at Notre Dame.

Throughout the season ahead, you can get top headlines from college football from “The Feed”:  And be sure to Like us on Facebook, where we will be giving away weekly prizes and trying to stump you at college football trivia!